Survivin is a member of the inhibitor of apoptosis (IAP) gene family that has attracted attention from several viewpoints of basic and translational research. Its cell cycle-regulated expression at mitosis and association with the mitotic apparatus have been of interest to cell biologists studying faithful segregation of sister chromatids and timely separation of daughter cells. Investigators interested in mechanisms of apoptosis have found survivin an evolving challenge: while survivin inhibits apoptosis in vitro and in vivo, this pathway may be more selective as compared to cytoprotection mediated by other IAPs. Finally, basic and translational researchers in cancer biology have converged on survivin as a pivotal cancer gene, not simply for its sharp expression in tumors and not in normal tissues, but also for the potential exploitation of this pathway in cancer diagnosis and therapy. The objective of the present contribution is to line up current evidence and emerging concepts on the multifaceted functions of survivin in cell death and cell division, and how this pathway is being pursued for novel cancer therapeutic strategies.